After his recent talks with Ralph Rimmer, it looks like Eddie Hearn could have serious interest in playing a part in developing rugby league.
Eddie Hearn, who along with his dad Barry Hearn, have built a boxing and darts empire with both sports crammed with household names. Matchroom have brought a new life to arena sports and he knows how to get casual fans wanting to watch. Would he be able to do the same with Rugby League? A sport which is big on the M62 corridor but niche everywhere else in the country, in fact its niche everywhere else outside of Australia and the Pacific Island. I believe so.
With the introduction of Toronto Wolfpack and Eric Perez’ success short term, Hearn is one man who could pave the way for the sport to grow. Unfortunately for traditionalists, this may lead to the loss of some professional heartland teams at the top end of the sport to be replaced with teams from North America. But if the sport is to expand we need those big American cities to bring money into the sport through sponsorship deals and the successful commercialisation model in place across the Atlantic.
As some people have said, rugby league is such a Canadian sport, hard hitting and fast paced, Toronto are showing that there is interest there as 6,992 fans on average watched their games at the Lamport Stadium, imagine how many fans would go if they were playing Super League teams in the top division.
It’s a completely different kettle of fish compared to what Hearn is used to, the Manchester Arena and the Ally Pally are very different settings to a cold Thursday night down at Belle Vue or Craven Park but unlike darts which was a pub game, we already have foundations to have a great product for people to want to watch.
The game needs someone who can look long term, a plan for the next 20 years instead of chopping and changing the competition every few seasons as many people I’ve spoken to are confused by the structures and can’t keep up.
If Hearn can work his magic then who knows where the sport will be in 50 years’ time. Maybe we could see a World Cup with at least 16 teams packed with world class players. Let’s not beat around the bush, the game will never reach the heights of sports such as football and the big four in America but I genuinely believe that if everyone gets on board then we could break through the glass ceiling.
My only worry with Hearn is that his boxing promotion is so successful that he may not be 100% committed to our game and if he has a dream boxing match coming up such as a Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua showdown then his thoughts may be more focused there. Maybe he could have the Challenge Cup final as a curtain raiser for the boxing card at Wembley Stadium, imagine that.
Only time will tell, and Hearn may not even want to take over the RFL, he may just be giving ideas but I for one am very excited about the ideas Eddie Hearn could bring to the sport.